Center for Reproductive Rights


As of November 2017, El Salvador had over 11,805 confirmed and suspected cases of the Zika virus, with the highest incidence in the departments of Chalatenango, Cuscatlán, and Cabañas, making Central American the region in the world with the third highest concentration of the virus. From the first documented cases of Zika in late 2015 to early 2017, health authorities reported a total of 371 pregnant women suspected of having Zika. While the Pan American Health Organizationonly reported four cases of Congenital Zika Syndromein the country, the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) reported that a comparison of pre- and post-epidemic rates of microcephaly indicated that the number of Zika-related cases may actually be much higher.

In January 2016, El Salvador’s Ministry of Health advised women to avoid pregnancy for two years. In response to similar warnings in Colombia and Brazil, in February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) came out with a public statement declaring the Zika epidemic a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The WHO and U.S. Centers for Disease Control followed this announcement by advising pregnant women against traveling to the more than 45 countries where Zika was present, getting tested if they had traveled to those regions, and refraining from unprotected sex with partners who had visited these areas. Despite these initial broad preventive measures, as of March 2017, over 70 countries and territories had reported evidence of mosquito-borne Zika transmission.

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